michelle kosilek transgender inmate boston sex change surgery robert kosilek Robert Kosilek, now known as Michelle, is seen in January 1993 while on trial for the 1990 murder of her wife.
Credit: AP Images

State correction officials have spoken to six surgeons who have said they would be willing to perform a sex change on an inmate serving a life sentence.

Department of Correction Commissioner Luis Spencer submitted an affidavit Jan. 31 that was made public yesterday. It detailed for a federal judge the work by the agency to proceed with the controversial ruling.

Michelle Kosilek, who was born Robert, sued the DOC in federal court for not providing her with a sex change and claimed it violated her Eighth Amendment rights. Last year, Chief Judge Mark Wolf issued a divisive ruling in which he sided with Kosilek and said she suffered from a “mental illness” that must be treated.


Kosilek is serving a life sentence after being convicted for killing her wife Cheryl in Mansfield in 1990.

The state has appealed the decision, but Wolf has ordered officials to move ahead making plans for the surgery should the appeal fail.

None of the six doctors work in Massachusetts or New York. Their names are redacted in the court filing.

Spencer wrote in his affidavit that officials from the DOC spoke with the doctors who all said they would perform the surgery. All but one said they would consider becoming licensed in Massachusetts, which would make transportation to and from a facility where the doctor could perform the surgery easier.

Most of the doctors also said they have previously performed hundreds of sex reassignment surgeries and their methods vary. Most of them also said that a 10 to 14 day hospitalization is necessary post surgery to recover.

Now that doctors have been found, the next steps are to determine logistics in providing the surgery including getting the doctors licensed in state, determining transportation methods and correction officer staffing as well as finding a hospital site, said Spencer.

Spencer also cited security concerns and where to house Kosilek pre and post surgery and during recuperation.

Wolf had criticized the DOC for dragging its feet in making plans, but Spencer disagreed.

“The information contained in this affidavit demonstrates that, far from “foot-dragging,” the Department has made substantial progress in taking the steps reasonably necessary to provide Kosilek with [sex reassignment surgery],” said Spencer.

Michael Naughton

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